Guitars and the Short-Circuiting of Evolution.

Guitars. We all love them, they help some people to make terrific music, some people to make mediocre music, and some people to make simply awful noise. There’s a mystery and mystique surrounding the players and a certain amount of mastery and wizardry involved. However, behind the curtain, the guitar holds a terrible, awful secret that is simply not recognized by the public at large, and that is this:

Playing the guitar isn’t that hard. Anyone can learn to do it. It’s the musical equivalent of a lot of free time and a lot of a very specific kind of development. A person who plays the guitar is no more “spiritual” or “deep” than one who doesn’t, he or she is simply better able to portray those qualities.

(At this point it should be said that I’m not necessarily singling out ONLY guitars, but they are the most commonly played instrument in my society, and thus the best example withing my experience. This article could apply to any instrument, except the accordion.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love guitar music. I love guitar players. I love guitar fans. It just blows my mind that all- and I mean it- a guy has to do to triple his attractiveness to the opposite sex is to pick up a guitar and play the only song he knows. See the scene in “Stranger than Fiction” in which a bumbling, sexually and socially incompetent Will Farrell seduces (more appropriately, gets jumped by) a smoking Maggie Gyllenhal. It’s fiction, yes, but it’s believable. I’ll refrain from further specific references to the condition, which I’ll call “going guitar nuts”, as it should be familiar to anyone who’s been near anyone holding a board and five strings.


So, what is it about guitars, and music in general, that makes the player irresistably attractive?

Why Music Makes a Person Sexy

One theory of attraction that I tend to give a great deal of credence to is the evolutionary imperative theory.  This should be familiar to by reputation if not explicitly, as the theory that men and women are attracted to attributes in a person that can be transferred to their offspring. Another name for the theory is the “sexy grandchildren” theory.

The theory states that men, in general, are attracted to young women with clear skin and a certain hip-to-waist ratio because of the propensity of such women to be fertile. It states that women tend to be attracted to attributes that will make for sexy personalities in the offspring such as intelligence, assertiveness, high status, social competence, and money. Of course, the theory doesn’t discount personality as an attractive force for males, nor physical appearance for females, but it does insist that men will have a stronger initial, physical attraction and women will have a more delayed and personality-based attraction style.

What all of this has to do with guitars is simple: playing the guitar demonstrates a certain amount of creativity, intelligence and physical soundness to the attraction wiring very, very effectively. Combine this with the fact that whoever’s playing is almost certainly the center of attention at the time and you get a certain level of status communicated to the wiring. Guitar players aren’t unlimited, so you have a certain amount of scarcity amongst that resource, which is among the most powerful motivating factors for human beings.

The short-circuiting of Evolution

There’s a quote that it’s hard to pin down to an original coiner: “God created man. Samuel Colt made them equal.”

Once upon a time, if the time came for two men to fight for their lives, the strongest, quickest and most intelligent survived. When the gun was invented, the situation changed. The new imperative was simply to be the first to shoot the other man, with very little strength or strategy involved. This development, depending on your point of view, either caused a paradigm shift in human evolution or removed part of the selection mechanism for a strong body.

Guitars are the sexual guns of the evolutionary landscape. They make it possible for a man with less evolutionarily desirable attributes to compete with a man with a greater genetic desirability. The selection criteria have changed, yet again. The skinny, antisocial nerd with a guitar can shoot down the nonmusical but otherwise desirable competitor with a few chords and a croaky voice.

A valid point?

Even Darwin doubted that Evolution was a significant force in the development of human society, but if we evolved in the past, then that has shaped us to behave in certain ways, be attracted to certain things, shun those that don’t, admire those who do, and strive to be better. Music is arguably one of the greatest developments in human history, and it should be recognized as such. Just as happened with the gun, we’ll move on and adapt to the changing pressures, but as with the gun, the development of music and musicality as a mate selection criteria to our emotional wiring is a technology that needs to be recognized for the power it has. I’m sure that the impact music has had on the habits and behaviors of human beings on this planet in the last, say, ten thousand years, has been dramatic beyond all comprehension.

Of course, ten thousand years is nothing on a geological timescale, and slightly more nothing on an evolutionary timescale. Given enough time, though, there isn’t enough wood on this planet to make all of the guitars we’ll need once every one of our descendents are slamming out “Zombie” or “Sgt. Pepper’s”. As short circuits go, one that fills the world with music has a certain amount of flair.